tagged w/ Toxins
Rising acidification of oceans caused by climate change makes industrially contaminated sediments more toxicby Harriet Jarlett
Acidification of UK waters may make industrially-contaminated sediments more toxic over time, say scientists.
Marine animals may be harmed by several stress factors
The study looked at crustaceans that feed on the surface of sediments from dredged ports and estuaries
It found that ocean acidification, caused by climate change, causes sediments contaminated with metal to become more toxic. This can result in significant DNA damage for the animals that graze on these sediments.
'The combined effect on these animals, of coping with adapting to climate change as well as increased toxin levels, could prove to be fatal,' says Dave Sheahan, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), senior researcher on the study.
Cefas already monitors the sediments from industrialised estuaries, such as the Tees in northeast England, for poisonous metal particles. These areas must be regularly dredged to maintain harbour entrances, and the excess material has to be tested for its toxicity.
'Some organisms, may be able to move more or less to regulate for these changes. So there will be some trade off in behaviour.'
Dr Silvana Birchenough - Cefas
The scientists placed dredged material from one of these sites into laboratory tanks, then introduced burrowing crustaceans which normally graze on the sediment surface. Next, they exposed the creatures to water with levels of acid found in seawater today, as well as acid levels predicted for the next 50 and 100 years. Animals that survived ten days in these tanks were then tested to see if they incurred DNA damage.>
The animals experienced significant DNA damage, which rose with acidification levels, suggesting that when acidification is combined with metal in sediments it can be more harmful.
But the study also showed that as toxicity of ingested metals rises, animals are sometimes able to adapt their behaviour to cope.
Dr Silvana Birchenough, senior benthic ecologist and co-author of the study, describes how 'initially you can see the distinct burrows they made, but after treatment there was less activity, some species were just sat on top without moving much. This shows us how some organisms, may be able to move more or less to regulate for these changes. So there will be some trade off in behaviour.
Sheahan explained that scientists may now find a certain species tolerance is worse, and over time that species would be outcompeted by other groups. Although they expect some species to be able to survive better, or some genotypes within species better able to tolerate changes.
At the moment dredged sediments are monitored and if toxicity falls below a predetermined threshold they are considered safe to deposit in the sea. However, rising ocean acid levels may put more stress on the animals, on top of the metal toxicity, meaning current threshold values will need to be changed to make sure all marine animals, including crustaceans, are protected.
end of excerpt
Ocean acidification is a topic so very important to the web of life and to the biodiversity of our planet. Yet, it is hardly if ever discussed nor is it readily seen as part of the climate crisis when it is a primary part of it. Even as a climate presenter I have to admit that much more time is concentrated on the affects of CO2 on our atmosphere and not nearly enough time on our oceans. Since we already know that oceans cover nearly three quarters of our planet and all life eminates from them it would seem logical that the effects of climate change and pollution would be paramount in discussions of our continued existence as a species and others. This article and study make it clear that we are not only changing the chemical makeup of our oceans but affecting the species that live there to the point of actually interfering in the evolution of them.
This is the conundrum we face with our environment as a whole. Our inability to see the rhythm of life we are changing to the detriment of outselves thinking that the "progress" we are creating will somehow work to overcome the longlasting damage we are doing to all around us. The main tenet of our existence as humans should be do no harm. For in that tenet lies the secret to our own happiness and oneness with nature that brings us knowledge of the true riches of this world.
I am heartbroken to see what we are doing to the oceans of our world. Industrial pollution, waste, toxins, poisons, oil, nitrogen fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, all working against the very rhythm of life we need to keep ourselves thriving. All life thrives because of our oceans and now the CO2 we are also saturating them with in conjuction with our waste and pollution is working to change the chemical makeup and biodiversity of them. Some species may be able to adapt, yet others that would otherwise thrive without man's harmful intervention will not. How can we in good conscience sit by and watch while a biocide occurs at our hands? Our march to progress in human terms is not what the world as a whole is measured by. Therein lies the disconnect between us and the symbiosis we need in order to finally see the light to a better future. Our oceans are our lifeline as are all the species in it that serve a distinct and beautiful purpose. The sooner we realize we are one as a species with them and work in tandem to protect our environment as a whole the sooner we may be able to heal.by Harriet Jarlett Acidification of UK waters may make industrially-contaminated... more
In good news for farmers and communities across the country, Dow announced last week that it is no longer planning to market its 2,4-D corn for the 2013 planting season.
The new genetically engineered (GE) seed has spurred strong opposition from farmers, consumers and public health officials, and the widespread concern seems to have slowed approval of the product. Organic and conventional farmers alike are worried about damage to their crops from 2,4-D drift; they also cite health risks to their families, especially their children who are particularly vulnerable to the chemical.
A decision from USDA on 2,4-D corn was expected before the end of 2012, but appears to be on hold. The Dow product is the first in a "pipeline" of new herbicide-tolerant GE products designed to combat increasing resistance of weeds to glyphosate under Monsanto's RoundUp Ready systems.
Millions of acres of weeds have now developed resistance to glyphosate, leading farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup and older, even more hazardous herbicides to try to beat back the weeds. Recent studies document a dramatic increase in the use of herbicides since herbicide tolerant GE crops were introduced, with an estimated 500+ million pounds of additional herbicides applied between 1996-2011.
As PAN's senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman told Reuters,
"Weed resistance to chemical herbicides is one of the biggest problems farmers now face, and that is a direct result of converting so much of our farmland to herbicide-resistant GE crops. We need to get out of this futile chemical arms race, fast."
More at the linkIn good news for farmers and communities across the country, Dow announced last week... more
Big Cat Makes A Comeback!
Scotty Johnson (Defenders of Wildlife) | Posted on 22 January 2013
Jaguars. Mention the word to people who know nothing about endangered wildlife? They imagine a tuxedoed Richard Branson, or James Bond speeding round a precipitous cliff. Tell these people you work on jaguars? They look at your hands, presumably to spot grease under your fingernails. The fun comes in telling them otherwise.
The spotted cat—a magnificent, elusive, elegant, highly endangered creature — once roamed the continental United States as far north as the Grand Canyon, even as recently as a fifty years ago. They return here from Mexico, where Defenders supports a jaguar preserve. They’re the only roaring cat in the Western hemisphere and the largest cat in the Americas — at least they used to be, until humans arrived, with guns. Then jaguars were driven from their ancestral homelands.
The good news? The big cat is back.
Last month, research cameras revealed the presence of a healthy male jaguar less than forty miles south of Tucson, Arizona. Wildlife lovers celebrate his arrival. Developers, however, who are busily eyeing his habitat for the copper beneath, are not so thrilled. Having an endangered species nearby could delay their already controversial project.
They should be concerned, and not just because of jaguars. The proposed mine — dubbed Rosemont — is an industrial-scale ecological nightmare. The brainchild of a Canadian mining company called Augusta the project would be a mile-wide, half-mile-deep open pit mine that will—if approved—dump hundreds of millions of tons of mine waste laced with mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxics on more than 3,000 acres of Arizona National Forest and ecologically important tributaries. It’s opposed by local citizens, county and federal officials, health experts—anyone with common sense.
Yet, sometimes common sense isn’t all that common—and neither are the species that used to roam this area. Eight federally listed endangered species dwell within the proposed mine area. Half of these—the jaguar, ocelot, Chiricahua Leopard Frog and Pima Pineapple cactus—are likely declining in status. This means that even though the Endangered Species Act protects them, they may still be slipping toward extinction.
What is happening south of Tucson is a scenario repeating throughout America: As habitats are fragmented, deforested, drilled, polluted, destroyed, altered by climate change and left uninhabitable, species suffer. Extinction ensues.
Extinction isn’t moral, ecologically smart, or democratic. Americans are overwhelmingly against extinction. A recent poll showed that 84 percent of Americans across demographic and political lines support the Endangered Species Act — the principal law to stop extinction. We have an obligation to preserve for future generations the astonishing diversity of life our generation is privileged to witness. Scientifically, species, their habitats and the interactions between them maintain healthy ecosystems. They are the fabric that all life depends on, including us. And when that fabric is torn, we begin to lose some of our most basic necessities — clean air, water and medicines, to name a few.
South of Tucson, a magnificent jaguar has made his presence known. He is an example of what we stand to lose if we fail to halt the mass extermination of species currently unfolding—an extinction crisis so severe it compares to five previous extinction events found in the geological record—the last one seventy-five million years ago with the dinosaurs. Scientists call it the Sixth Great Extinction.
In Arizona, a fiery and influential coalition of diverse groups, including Defenders, has banded together to stop extinction by informing the public, the media and engaging decision makers, including members of Congress of what we have to lose if they refuse to act. Like that big cat, they stand up, and are making a difference.
This coalition and many like them across the nation serve as inspiration to us all. It’s time we stand up and make a difference for the generations to come. This jaguar’s entrance is symbolic, not just of the many diverse species, lands and waterways he inhabits, but of a spirit rekindled – the spirit of life through conservation, reemerging strong and resilient.
.. Big Cat Makes A Comeback! Scotty Johnson (Defenders of Wildlife) | Posted on... more
You can join the action today virtually and let your voice be heard as to why this unhealthy dangerous practice must be banned.
Why I want to ban fracking:
Water is our most precious resource which is now becoming scarcer in a drought stricken world. We cannot survive if our water that must be used for agriculture and survival is poisoned with toxins and in short supply. Fracking also releases methane, another potent greenhouse gas that adds to the feedbacks we are already seeing globally. For our Earth, our health and our climate balance fracking must end now.
More at the link where you can add your comment.You can join the action today virtually and let your voice be heard as to why this... more
A former Monsanto employee, Kirk Azevedo, came forward for an interview with Food Nation Radio Network to give our listeners insight into how Monsanto does business. During the time he was employed there with some of the best minds in the biotech industry, he became alarmed by some of the practices Monsanto used to test new GMO crops, how those crops were disposed of after testing, and more.
Dr. Azevedo left the industry and is now a chiropractor in California, but as you'll hear in this exclusive audio broadcast on Food Nation, he has grave concerns about Monsanto, their ongoing actions and their influence on government leaders.
You can listen to that audio here:
Elizabeth Dougherty has been a food writer for over 10 years, attended culinary school and holds a Bachelor’s degree, Magna Cum Laude in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations from NYIT. She has been a talk show host of nearly 150 episodes of Food Nation Radio which airs each Saturday morning at 6 on AM1010 CBS and other stations. You can read her articles and hear previous shows on her podcast page on the Food Nation Radio Network website and on Facebook.
Elizabeth Dougherty, Special correspondent, Food Nation Radio Network
July 9, 2012A former Monsanto employee, Kirk Azevedo, came forward for an interview with Food... more
Researchers tested low-cost children’s and adult jewelry for chemicals -- including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine and chlorine (PVC) – which have been linked (in animal and some human studies) to acute allergies and to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.
Over half (59%) of the products tested had a “high” level of concern due to the presence of one or more hazardous chemicals detected at high levels. Four products contained over 10% cadmium, a known carcinogen. Fifty percent contained lead, with over half of these containing more than 100 ppm of lead in one or more components, exceeding the Consumer Product Safety Commission limit of lead in children’s products.
http://youtu.be/e37urmmZPdMResearchers tested low-cost children’s and adult jewelry for chemicals --... more
Caen/ Munich - Insecticidal Bt toxins such as those produced in genetically engineered plants can be detrimental to human cells. This is a result of recent research led by researchers at the University of Caen (France). Their experiments showed that toxins produced in, for example, the genetically engineered maize MON810, can significantly impact the viability of human cells. The effects were observed with relatively high concentrations of the toxins, nevertheless there is cause for concern.
For the first time, experiments have now shown that they can have an toxic effect to human cells. According to companies like Monsanto, which produces genetically engineered maize with these toxins, the toxins are supposed to be active only against particular insects and should have no effect on mammals and humans at all. The investigation of effects of Bt toxins on human cells is not a requirement for risk assessment in Europe or in any other region
Another finding of the researchers concerns a herbicide formulation sold under the brand name Roundup. Massive amounts of this herbicide are sprayed on genetically engineered soybean crops and its residues can be found in food and feed. According to the new publication, even extremely low dosages of Roundup (glyphosate formulations) can damage human cells. These findings are in accordance with several other investigations highlighting unexpected health risks associated with glyphosate preparations.
"We were very much surprised by our findings. Until now, it has been thought almost impossible for Bt proteins to be toxic to human cells. Now further investigations have to be conducted to find out how these toxins impact the cells and if combinatorial effects with other compounds in the food and feed chain have to be taken into account," says Gilles-Eric Séralini from the University of Caen, who supervised the experiments. "In conclusion, these experiments show that the risks of Bt toxins and of Roundup have been underestimated."
Bt toxins and tolerance to herbicides are broadly used in genetically engineered plants. Bt proteins only naturally occur in soil bacteria. By introducing the modified toxin gene into the plants, the structure of the toxins is modified and may thereby cause selectivity to be changed. The content of the proteins within the plants is highly variable. Many genetically engineered plants contain several Bt toxins at the same time. For example, SmartStax produces six different Bt toxins and therefore has a higher overall content of the proteins. In addition, it was made tolerant to herbicides. So far, there has been no investigation of the combinatorial effects of these toxins and residues from spraying, or their potential risks for human health, which was considered unlikely. The researchers have now shown that interactivity does occur. Under the specific conditions of their experiment, the Bt toxin lowered the toxicity of Roundup. Further investigations are necessary to examine other potential combinatorial effects under varying conditions.
"These results are pretty worrying. Risk assessment requirements for genetically engineered plants and pesticides need to be rigidly enforced. In the light of these findings, we think that the commercialisation of these plants is not in accordance with EU regulations", says Christoph Then at Testbiotech. Testbiotech is closely following risk assessment at the European Food Safety Authority EFSA and has repeatedly brought attention to gaps in risk assessment.
The research was supported by GEKKO foundation (Germany). CRIIGEN Association (France) and Testbiotech (Germany) were involved in planning the experiments and the discussion of results. Findings were published after peer review process.
Mesnage R., Clair E., Gress S., Then C., Székács A., Séralini G.-E., 2012, Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate-based herbicide, Journal of Applied Toxicology, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.2712/abstract
Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, France: Tel. +33 2 31 56 54 89, email@example.com
Christoph Then, Testbiotech, Germany: +49.15154638040, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.testbiotech.org
NOTE: The newly published paper in the Journal of Applied Toxicology can be found here:
Genetically engineered maize: New indication of health risks
Test Biotech & CRIIGEN, 17 February 2012
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/620Caen/ Munich - Insecticidal Bt toxins such as those produced in genetically engineered... more
A newly released hidden video is available for unrestricted use by the members of media at a new website http://occupy-monsanto.com. Occupy Monsanto is calling for protests on September 17, 2012, at Monsanto facilities across the globe to demand GMO labeling and the elimination of cancer causing toxic chemicals in our food supply.
During a face-to-face encounter caught on hidden video, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant is challenged on how his company has an "artificial buffer" of acceptance in the consumer marketplace because "people don't know if what they are eating is GMO."
In the video GMO Labeling campaigner Adam Eidinger also speaks before the entire shareholder meeting, urging acceptance of GMO labeling. He decries the agrichemical giant's contribution to the rise of "Superweeds" and "Superpests" that develop resistance to ever more toxic chemicals sprayed on them. Despite the challenge of Monsanto to "reform," no shareholders challenged Eidinger on the facts except for Grant. Eidinger also asks Grant from the podium how much the company will spend fighting GMO labeling efforts in 2012.
When pressed by Eidinger a second time on the labeling issue Grant asserts that Monsanto complies with and supports US laws regarding labeling. He admits, "There is an increasing category of GMO-free as well, so we would support the overarching umbrella of labeling."
Eidinger responded that his question addressed efforts to change the laws to mandate labeling. "Is the Company going to oppose these labeling efforts wherever they take place?" he asks. Grant relents, "We would be absolutely open and willing to engage in a dialog with our broad industry peers," when it comes to the question of labeling GMOs.
Currently, Monsanto faces new lawsuits from organic farmers, while in California a GMO labeling ballot proposition is under review. More than 550,000 people have signed onto the JustLabelit.org citizens' petition to the Food and Drug Administration for GMO labeling and last fall for the first time about 100 people marched in a GMO Right2Know March from New York to the White House to demand President Obama keep his campaign promise to label GMO foods. (Video of the promise can be seen here. )
The Monsanto Annual Shareholders' Meeting concluded official activities of the Right2Know March for GMO labeling which was sponsored by the Non-GMO Project and many other organizations and businesses. Some coordinators of last year's march have set their focus on Monsanto. In March of 2012 a new "Occupy Monsanto" campaign will be formally launched to focus on changing Monsanto's business practices and support the principles of the Occupy movement.
More at the linkA newly released hidden video is available for unrestricted use by the members of... more
Atrazine. It's in our lakes, streams and drinking water at levels that make a difference to human health. Scientists link exposure to increased risk of birth defects, infertility and possibly cancer.
Who's responsible? The Syngenta corporation — the world's largest pesticide company. They're working overtime to promote and protect their flagship product in the U.S., despite the fact that it's long been banned in their home county of Switzerland. Syngenta has intimidated scientists, pressured regulators and paid an economist to manufacture faulty studies — all to keep an unnecessary product on the market.
Contaminating U.S. waterways
Atrazine is found more often than any other pesticide in U.S. groundwater. The weed killer is one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. — and the world. More than 76 million pounds are used in this country each year, mostly on corn fields. Smaller amounts are used on other crops too, from sugarcane to cauliflower to Christmas trees.
Atrazine is good at killing weeds in part because of its stability; it can stick around for up to 100 days in the soil. This also makes it a pollution problem. Once it leaches into groundwater, it can remain there for decades.
Families in the Midwest who get their drinking water from shallow wells are especially vulnerable.
Found in water throughout the Midwest, atrazine shows up in wells in agricultural communities and in pristine lakes and rivers. Drinking water contamination levels typically spike in spring and early summer, as rains flush the freshly applied herbicide. One recent study shows that atrazine also evaporates into the air after application, in a process called volatilization drift. It can then settle back into waterways.
USDA scientists found the herbicide in 94% of the drinking water tested in 2008.
Health effects in the heartland
Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor. This means that micro-doses can have large, irreversible effects that we are just beginning to understand. New studies link low-level exposure to birth defects, delayed puberty and infertility — all of which are on the rise. Higher cancer risk and environmental toxicity are also of concern.
Birth Defects: Infants concieved during atrazine spray season are more likely to be born with birth defects. Research shows that even low levels of exposure during pregnancy may be problematic; the third trimester appears to be most critical.
Infertility: Documented reproductive harms include male infertility, increased risk of miscarriage, and low infant birth weight.
Cancer: Atrazine may increase risk of breast and prostate cancer. Though some studies have not found a link, the recent President's Cancel Panel Report calls atrazine a possible carcinogen.
Scientists report that for atrazine, timing of exposure may be more important than exposure levels, and interaction with other pesticides may make health harms more severe.
Evidence of environmental effects is also strong and growing. Recent studies show that atrazine causes genetically male frogs to become anatomically female through a "chemical castration" effect.
More at the linkAtrazine. It's in our lakes, streams and drinking water at levels that make a... more
When whale biologist and Ocean Alliance founder Roger Payne began his career, the chief threat to whales was commercial whaling.
At that time, in the late 1960s, Payne estimates that 33,000 great whales were killed annually across the globe. That number has dropped significantly, due to the 1986 International Whaling Commission's moratorium on whaling. Although a number of countries continue to hunt whales, including Norway, Iceland and Japan — which many critics say cloaks its whaling practice under the auspice of scientific research — Payne believes that, at least for now, commercial whaling will not bring these cetaceans to the brink of extinction.
Instead, he worries about another threat: Pollution.
Payne bases this concern on Ocean Alliance's own research.
The conservation organization, launched in 1971 — and now, under Iain Kerr as its CEO, looking to move its headquarters to Gloucester on the grounds of a restored and renovated Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory — has been studying whales since its inception. Payne, himself, came into the spotlight when he co-discovered in 1967 that humpback whales "sing"¬ù to each other.
Arguably, the organization's most significant work is its massive, five-year study that measured the baseline levels of contaminants in whales around the world.
"People have known since the early '60s there was a real problem from pollutants," Payne says. "But no one had a global view of it. This was the first global view."
So, from 2000 to 2005, Ocean Alliance's 93-foot vessel, the Odyssey, snaked its way around 21 countries and 118 ports. During that time, Ocean Alliance's team gathered whale and marine life samples across the world, including more than 950 sperm whale biopsy samples.
"We looked at sperm whales because they are living at the same level of the food chain which humans are living at,"¬ù explains Payne. "So what is happening in the sperm whale is probably similar to what is happening with people."
For Ocean Alliance, the results of the survey were alarming.
"We go around the world," says Payne, "We look at sperm whales. We measure the background contaminants in them. And we discover — to our absolute horror — the concentration of a number of things."
Not only were the sperm whales exposed to common pollutants such as lead and mercury and a variety of metals such as gold and silver; they were also exposed to a wide range of chemicals such as DDT, PCBs, and fire retardants.
Moreover, one pollutant proved to be the biggest surprise: chromium.
"It was the most dramatic finding," he continues. "Chromium in its hexavalent form is a terrible carcinogen. It was the subject of the film 'Erin Brockovich.' And that is what we find in sperm whales all around the world."
Kerr, who captained the Odyssey for 10 years and is Ocean Alliance's CEO, says the study demonstrated that marine life is being hit hard on two levels.
"On the left hand, you have these compounds that are naturally occurring, but they have never occurred in the concentrations that we are now experiencing," Kerr says. "And on the right hand ,there are groups of compounds that have never existed naturally. In both cases, animals have no way to deal with them."
Enter Ocean Alliance's new study, sort of a Phase 2. This time, Ocean Alliance is teaming up with John Wise, head of the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine.
Wise is a known commodity at Ocean Alliance; he and his wife, scientist Sandy Wise, analyzed the sperm whale biopsy samples from the alliance's 2000 to 2005 research.
Ocean Alliance turned to Wise because his lab studies the effects of environmental pollutants on human DNA. So how does that translate to whales?
"Our interest in DNA is that all life is dependent on it," Wise explains. "In humans, if you damage DNA you can get cancer and developmental abnormalities in children. We think in wild animals certainly the same is true, though most species don't live long enough for cancer to be a concern. The concern is pollutants in the environment are damaging DNA. And preventing the ability of the species to reproduce."
The scientists are 14 months into what Wise hopes will be a 10-year investigation. At this turn, they won't be sailing around the globe — they'll be closer to home.
Ocean Alliance and Wise will be honing their scientific eye on humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine, including those off the Gloucester coastline.
Because humpbacks live nearer to shore than sperm whales, they allow for easier and longer observational studies. So over time, for example, the team can note which female whales are reproducing, which are not — and it can answer some specific questions, like:
What are the long-term effects of pollutants on whales? Could pollutants cause developmental abnormalities? And — for a whale species already compromised in numbers — could something like chromium cause serious reproductive disorders?
Already this autumn, Payne, Kerr and Wise have led three expeditions out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary searching for humpbacks to biopsy.
The trips have been launched from the Gloucester Marine Railways, where Ocean Alliance's 90-foot boat, the Caribana, is docked. The vessel was donated to the group this past year and is captained by Joe Boreland, who was, coincidentally, a relief captain on the Odyssey expedition and has been working for the nonprofit intermittently since 1995.
It's unclear if Ocean Alliance will be making any more expeditions this season. But both Ocean Alliance and the Wise Laboratory are heading to the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Tampa, Fla., later this month.
There, they'll be delivering data on another study they are conducting, this time examining the effects of the 2010 BP oil spill on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.
What exactly do these studies on whales and other marine mammals mean for human health?
Payne stresses that the research cannot be underestimated.
"You can say that it is probably the biggest public health threat that has ever threatened human beings," he says. "About a billion people are dependent on fish as primary source of protein. And this, I would assume, would shorten the lives of these billions of people — the fact they are taking in all these contaminants when they take in such meals."
More at the linkWhen whale biologist and Ocean Alliance founder Roger Payne began his career, the... more
Climate change, increasing population, greater demand for animal products, and the un-sustainability of current food production: All will challenge our ability to produce enough food in coming decades. Already there is evidence that climate change has reduced crop yields.
But the good news is that we already have many of the tools that we need to respond.
Tom Philpott at Mother Jones highlights a peer-reviewed article showing that small Mexican maize farmers have an important piece of the answer to these challenges.
The article suggests that there is a lot of genetic diversity in corn grown on traditional small Mexican farms that will allow food production there to adapt to climate change. Genetic diversity provides the building blocks of crop adaptability—the inherited differences between plants that is evolution’s way of allowing survival in changing environments.
The value of crop genetic diversity goes way beyond Mexican maize fields. Other scientists have documented large amounts of untapped genetic diversity in the world’s major crops wherever they have looked, such as in wheat and cassava. Breeders can use this, along with diversity found in wild species related to crops, to adapt our crops to climate change and to increase productivity.
When coupled with ecological farming principles that increase resilience in the face of drought, flood and rising temperatures, breeding can go a long way toward providing enough food sustainably by mid-century. For example, organic and similar practices build soil organic matter–this allows soil to hold more water which can help during drought. And breeding is already having success in developing drought tolerant rice, corn, and other crops, flood tolerant rice, many types of pest resistance, improved nutrient content, and much more.
Given all the evidence, it is perplexing that some scientists still want to put too many of our eggs in the genetic engineering (GE) basket. Currently, that basket looks pretty empty, with only a few crops resistant to herbicides and a few types of pests.
For example, Nina Federoff seems unaware of the potential of breeding, and the advances already being achieved through these scientifically sophisticated methods. In an op-ed in the New York Times, “Engineering Food for All” the former Bush-appointed Science Adviser to the Secretary of State lauds the wonders of crop genetic engineering, while tagging breeding as an “older” method that is “less capable”.
In a more blunt assessment during a public forum that I participated in at Dartmouth College several months ago, Federoff declared that crop breeding had run its course, and implied that GE was now our last best hope. She could not have been more wrong. The only way one can come to such conclusions is by omitting or overlooking loads of important science.
Most of the benefits from GE extolled in the op-ed are modest at best. They only seem impressive if you don’t compare them to the successes and potential of agroecology, agronomy, or breeding—which continue to achieve far more than GE. When looked at side-by-side, GE often pales by comparison to breeding.
more at the link.Climate change, increasing population, greater demand for animal products, and the... more
When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, the need was desperately apparent. Rivers were catching on fire. Pollution choked waterways. Most rivers and streams weren't safe to swim in. For some reason, Rep. Nick Rahall is supporting an effort by the coal industry and other major polluters to turn the page back to those days.
Enforcement of the Clean Water Act has kept billions of pounds of toxic chemicals and other pollutants out of America's waterways.
A bill quietly working its way through Congress, H.B. 2018, the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011," would undo decades of progress and render the Clean Water Act all but useless.
The bill -- supported by both Rahall and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito -- strikes at two vital provisions of the Clean Water Act. First, it would strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the ability to make states improve deficient water quality standards. The EPA could no longer withdraw approval of state programs, limit financial assistance or object to specific permits because of inadequate water quality standards enforced by the state.
An analysis of the legislation by the EPA says, the bill would prohibit the agency from revising water quality standards without buy-in from the state "even in the face of significant scientific information demonstrating threats to human health or aquatic life."
Second, the bill essentially allows a state to overrule a determination by EPA scientists that a dredge and fill permit could harm municipal water supplies, fishing, wildlife or recreation areas.
This bill would turn the Clean Water Act on its head, giving states the right to allow less stringent protection of the nation's waterways.
Together, these two provisions would lead to a race to the bottom in places like West Virginia where industry holds substantial sway over state regulatory agencies. The entire point of the Clean Water Act is to ensure a nationwide clean water standard because the waters of this nation are a shared resource.
more at the linkWhen the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, the need was desperately apparent. Rivers... more
Is Your Strawberry Shortcake Toxic?
Stop the Use of Methyl Iodide for Your Strawberries!
We Have Until April 30th to Stop the Use of Poison on Our Strawberries!
Will strawberry shortcake become known for causing cancer, birth defects and miscarriages? California, the state where 90 percent of U.S. strawberries are grown, approved the use of a highly toxic chemical for strawberry fields last year. We've got a chance to get this chemical banned at the federal level, but we need to get your comments in by April 30th. Can you take action to stop the use of methyl iodide for strawberries?
A panel of Nobel laureates and expert scientists called methyl iodide, "one of the most toxic chemicals used in manufacturing," and even though it was banned in Washington state, California approved its use on strawberry fields last year. The use of methyl iodide can cause significant problems for people, including cancer, miscarriages and brain damage in children.
California's decision has prompted a national Environmental Protection Agency review of methyl iodide, so we have an important opportunity to ban this chemical once and for all.
It's time to put our health and our children's health before the profits of the pesticide industry. They should be finding safer, healthier ways to produce strawberries instead of introducing more toxins into our bodies and our environment.
Sign the petition against the use of methyl iodide on our strawberries:
or join Food & water watch at my link thanks -figgdimension
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Western Region Director
Food & Water WatchIs Your Strawberry Shortcake Toxic? Stop the Use of Methyl Iodide for Your... more
GENEVA — Climate change is a major obstacle to a 2004 global treaty aimed at cutting exposure to 21 highly dangerous chemicals, says a new U.N.-commissioned report.
The 66-page report – obtained by The Associated Press on Monday – says the risks of exposure could increase if more stockpiles and landfills leak due to flooding, or other extreme weather linked to rising temperatures. Chemicals stored in stockpiles or waste dumps to be incinerated or removed later could simply wash away, become more volatile, or escape in the warmer weather through gas emissions, it says.
"Significant climate-induced changes are foreseen in relation to future releases of persistent organic pollutants into the environment ... subsequently leading to higher health risks both for human populations and the environment," says Donald Cooper, the Geneva-based U.N. treaty's executive secretary, in the preface.
The report was being discussed Monday at a U.N. environment meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, and is due to be released later on the treaty's website.
The treaty, known as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, is intended to protect the environment and people's health from what it calls very dangerous chemicals that accumulate in the environment, travel long distances by air and water, and work their way through the food chain.
These chemicals pose a known risk to humans and the environment because they persist in people's bodies – damaging reproductive health, leading to mental health problems, or causing cancer or impede growth.
Initially the treaty focussed on 12 chemicals known as the "dirty dozen," such as the widely banned pesticides DDT and chlordane. The use of DDT in sprays to kill malaria-spreading mosquitoes has been allowed under exception in the treaty, but the U.N. says there are good alternatives to combat malaria and hopes to phase out DDT completely by the early 2020s.
In 2009, nine more substances were added, including PFOS, worth billions of dollars in a wide range of uses from making semiconductor chips to fighting fires, and lindane, an insecticide used to combat head lice.
The report says climate warming could result in greater use of some of the pesticides, such as DDT which is produced and used widely for malaria control. Other concerns are that more chemicals will be emitted into the air, the report says, because the vapor pressure increases exponentially with temperature, and added heat will make them more volatile.GENEVA — Climate change is a major obstacle to a 2004 global treaty aimed at... more
Some fish in New York’s Hudson River have become resistant to several of the waterway’s more toxic pollutants. Instead of getting sick from dioxins and related compounds including some polychlorinated biphenyls, Atlantic tomcod harmlessly store these poisons in fat, a new study finds.
But what’s good for this bottom-dwelling species could be bad for those feeding on it, says Isaac Wirgin of the New York University School of Medicine’s Institute of Environmental Medicine in Tuxedo. Each bite of tomcod that a predator takes, he explains, will move a potent dose of toxic chemicals up the food chain — eventually into species that could end up on home dinner tables.
From 1947 to 1976, two General Electric manufacturing plants along the Hudson River produced PCBs for a range of uses, including as insulating fluids in electrical transformers. Over the years, PCB and dioxin levels in the livers of the Hudson’s tomcod rose to become “among the highest known in nature,” Wirgin and his colleagues note online Feb. 17 in Science. Because these fish don’t detoxify PCBs, Wirgin explains, it was a surprise that they could accumulate such hefty contamination without becoming poisoned. His team now reports that the tomcod’s protection traces to a single mutation in one gene. The gene is responsible for producing a protein needed to unleash the pollutants’ toxicity.
All vertebrates contain molecules in their cells that will bind to dioxins and related compounds. Indeed, these proteins — aryl hydrocarbon receptors, or AHRs — are often referred to as dioxin receptors. Once these poisons diffuse into an exposed cell, each molecule can mate with a receptor and together they eventually pick up a third molecule. This trio can then dock with select segments of DNA in the cell’s nucleus to inappropriately turn on genes that can poison the host animal.
The tomcod actually has two types of AHRs, with AHR-2 offering the most effective binding to dioxin-like pollutants. But one naturally occurring AHR-2 variant, the result of a gene mutation, proves a very poor mate, Wirgin’s team has found. It takes five times more of the pollutants to get substantial binding than is needed with the conventional AHR-2.
In local rivers relatively free of dioxins and PCBs, 95 percent of tomcod possess AHR-2 only in the conventional form. But in the PCB-rich Hudson, Wirgin’s group finds, the only kind of AHR-2 protein in 99 percent of tomcod is the poorly binding variant.
The mutant receptor appears to have evolved long ago and to be widely dispersed. But in the Hudson, fish with the gene to make the mutant receptor have thrived, while those without it have died out, Wirgin notes.
Adaptation to resist poisons occurs throughout biology, observes molecular toxicologist John Stegeman of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. This process explains why some pesticides no longer kill their targets and why some microbes become immune to antibiotics.
Stegeman has been chronicling resistance to toxic PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in another coastal species, a killifish. “But the mechanism in the killifish has not been uncovered, despite a long effort to determine it,” he says.
Knowing the genetic underpinnings for chemical resistance can help predict the likelihood of that resistance developing, he explains, and can point to “how one might exploit resistance — even understand why chemicals are toxic.” Genetic mechanisms for chemical resistance in wild species are known for some invertebrates, such as bugs. Stegeman says, to his knowledge, this tomcod finding is the first in a vertebrate.thttp://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/fish-toxins-environment/ Some fish in... more
Diesel era ends for MTA buses
Metro will become the only major transit agency in the U.S. with a fleet run entirely on alternative fuels. Officials say the shift has sharply cut emissions of cancer-causing pollution.
The MTA took delivery of its first natural gas buses in 1995. The technology has increased the price of a standard bus by about $50,000. Diesel coaches cost around $400,000. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
January 12, 2011
After almost two decades of effort to reduce vehicle emissions, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will retire its last diesel bus Wednesday and become the only major transit agency in the nation with a fleet that is totally equipped with alternative-fuel technologies.
In an urban area where diesel buses began operating in 1940, the MTA now has 2,221 buses powered by compressed natural gas, as well as one electric bus and six gasoline-electric hybrids.
Transit officials estimate that the elimination of diesel engines has reduced the release of cancer-causing particulates from the bus fleet by 80% and greenhouse gases by about 300,000 pounds a day in one of the smoggiest areas of the country.
MTA officials say that compressed natural gas buses cost more to buy and maintain than those powered by diesel but that the increased expenses are offset over the long run by lower fuel costs.
"Not only is this an important step for air quality, it sets the bar for other transportation agencies to follow," said Joe Lyou, president of the Coalition for Clean Air, a statewide organization based in Los Angeles. "Now when an MTA bus pulls up, you don't run away anymore from the huge cloud of exhaust."
The last diesel coach is a 40-foot New Flyer purchased in 1998. It operated out of the MTA's Venice division, where it logged many of its 383,180 miles on routes along Wilshire Boulevard, Venice Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.
No. 3004 will be ceremoniously retired and towed away during an event at the MTA's Support Services Center in downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MTA Chief Executive Art Leahy, other elected officials and members of the authority's board of directors will be on hand.
Officials plan to auction the vehicle, which is probably worth a few thousand dollars because of its parts. Before the sale, however, mechanics will disable the engine so no one can operate it again.
"We've been on this path for 20 years or longer," Leahy said. "What this means is that we are not importing as much foreign fuel to run our bus system and we are running on much cleaner fuel. It's a great day for Los Angeles."
Statistics from the American Public Transportation Assn. show that the MTA is well ahead of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York and other large metropolitan areas in replacing diesel buses with more environmentally friendly vehicles.
According to the association, a couple of dozen smaller transit agencies, including those in Oxnard and Santa Barbara, have already replaced their entire fleets, while other agencies across the nation have made significant progress.
"I applaud Metro," said William Millar, president of the transportation association. "It is important to note that this achievement did not happen overnight. L.A. Metro and its predecessor organizations have been at the leading edge of clean bus fuel technology for about a quarter of a century."
The Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission began experimenting with alternative fuels such as natural gas, methanol and ethanol in the late 1980s. Those tests continued after both agencies became the MTA in 1993.
The MTA took delivery of its first natural gas buses in 1995. The technology has increased the price of a standard bus by about $50,000. Diesel coaches cost around $400,000.
Since then, the authority's clean-fuel buses have traveled about a billion miles, and officials say they regularly receive inquiries from transit agencies around the world interested in shifting to alternative power sources.
Though the MTA has converted its fleet, the agency still contracts with private bus lines that rely on diesel fuel. Of the 187 private buses, 82 have diesel engines, but transit officials say those should be phased out in the next several years.Diesel era ends for MTA buses Metro will become the only major transit agency in... more
Remember Hinkley, California (the "Erin Brockovich" Town)? The Citizens Are Still Plagued with Toxic PollutionAdded On November 24, 2010
The citizens of Hinkley, California, made famous by an awarding-winning environmental/activism movie, are still plagued with toxic pollution.
Now, California PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) is offering to buy the homes of anyone who's been/is being affected.Added On November 24, 2010 The citizens of Hinkley, California, made famous by an... more
Halliburton (HAL.N) unveiled a new website on Monday offering some details about the mix of chemicals used in a natural gas drilling technique, as the company attempts to allay public concerns about the impact of the practice on drinking water.
http://arch1design.com/blog/latest_eco_news/halliburton-announces-fracking-fluid-disclosure/Halliburton (HAL.N) unveiled a new website on Monday offering some details about the... more